Why Are Gharials Endangered?
A gharial is a crocodile-like reptile that had very long, narrow jaws. It is also known as the Indian gavial or the gavial, and is most commonly found in India and Nepal, but their distribution is only about 2% of their previous areas, and they are extinct in several rivers, including Pakistan’s Indus River and the Brahmaputra of Bhutan and Bangladesh. They are currently on the critically endangered list of animals, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or the IUCN. There are less than 200 breeding adults in the wild, the lowest numbers since the 1970s, when their numbers were down to the 50s and 60s.
The main reason behind the endangerment of the gharials is the loss of their habitat; gharials are riverine, and generally live in the very shallow and calm areas of waters in larger and faster rivers. Gharials are not very suited to movement on land because of their uniquely un-crocodilian attributes, such as shorter, flat legs and heavier body.
The loss of their habitat is due to the building of dams and irrigation canals on and around the larger sources of water in Nepal, Pakistan and various regions in India. They cannot survive in deeper waters or on land, and it has been very difficult to preserve their perfect habitat. Fishing is also damaging to their populations as it depletes their food source.
There are great conservation efforts currently in place. First there are cooperation between several governments in order to preserve these creatures, and many different areas that are protected and linked to captive breeding and releasing into the wild of the animals, as well as ranching where the eggs are collected and raised in captivity to avoid any predatorial threats. The wild population of gharials is now at around 1500 in India, but unfortunately the success has not yielded the hoped for results.